‘Everything Collapses Once Again’: Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Among Close Relatives of Icelanders With SUD

  •  Jóna M. Ólafsdóttir    
  •  Tarja Orjasniemi    
  •  Steinunn Hrafnsdóttir    


Background: This research explores the extent to which the use of alcohol or drugs by one member of a family affects the mental health and psychosocial state of other family members. Are Icelander family members of substance abusers more likely to report increased depression, anxiety, and stress compared to the general population? Are there significant differences between family members, such as spouses, parents, adult children, and siblings? And do family members express their feelings and experience in a similar way?

Methods: To answer such questions, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) was used to measure those three negative mental states. In the quantitative phase, the study investigated the differences in the average reported responses on the DASS in families with a chemically dependent parent, sibling, spouse/partner, or child. For the qualitative phase of the research, sixteen in-depth interviews were conducted with relatives of individuals afflicted with Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

Results: Over 35% of the DASS respondents in all three subscales (depression, anxiety, stress) were found to have average, serious, or very serious depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The interviews revealed interesting differences among how the behaviour of the family member with SUD affected each kind of relative: parents, children, siblings, and spouses.

Conclusion and Applications: The results of this study can be used to improve and promote treatment for the whole family as a unit, as well as for individual family members, and can help social professionals to better understand the effects of substance dependence on families, family systems, and public health in general.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1918-7173
  • ISSN(Online): 1918-7181
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: quarterly

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